Improving family grief outcomes: A scoping review of family-based interventions before and after the death of a child

Palliat Med. 2024 Mar;38(3):389-395. doi: 10.1177/02692163241233958. Epub 2024 Mar 4.


Background: Experiencing the illness and death of a child is a traumatic experience for the parents and the child's siblings. However, knowledge regarding effective grief interventions targeting the whole family is limited, including how to integrate age-appropriate support for siblings.

Aim: We aimed to synthesize the empirical literature regarding grief interventions that target the whole family before and/or after the death of a child.

Design: A scoping review following the Joanna Briggs Institute and Preferred Reporting Items for Systematic reviews and Meta-Analyses extension for Scoping Reviews (PRISMA-ScR) guidelines.

Data sources: We searched PubMed, PsycINFO, Embase, CINAHL, and Scopus covering January 1998-May 2022. We included studies describing any type of structured intervention targeting the whole family (i.e. parents and siblings) before or/and after the death of a child (below 18 years), with pre-post assessments of grief-related symptoms in the family as an outcome.

Results: After removal of duplicates, we screened the titles and abstracts of 4078 publications and identified 30 publications for full-text screening. None of the studies met the inclusion criteria. Most of the studies were excluded because they either did not target the whole family or did not target families who had lost a child below 18 years. Bereavement camps were a popular form of family intervention, but none were evaluated in a pre-post design. No grief interventions offering support pre-death were found.

Conclusions: There is great need for research to improve bereavement outcomes for the entire family and to potentially integrate this in pediatric palliative care.

Keywords: Bereavement; family; grief; palliative care; review.

Publication types

  • Systematic Review
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bereavement*
  • Child
  • Grief*
  • Humans
  • Palliative Care
  • Parents